Cash-strapped Scranton, Pa., has slashed pay for all city employees—including police and firefighters—to minimum wage, sparking furor among unions that now say they plan to sue in federal court.
A lawyer representing three unions told Scranton's Times-Tribune he will file several motions, including one to hold Mayor Chris Doherty in contempt of court for violating a judge's order to pay full wages.
The lawyer, Thomas Jennings, said he also expects to file a pair federal lawsuits on behalf of the unions—International Association of Firefighters Local 60, the Fraternal Order of Police E.B. Jermyn Lodge 2 and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 2305—alleging the city failed to pay proper wages and overtime, and cut benefits for disabled police and firefighters without a proper hearing.
"Pick a law," Jennings told the Times-Tribune. "They violated it."
Last week, Doherty abruptly cut pay for all 398 city employees to $7.25 per hour, saying it was the only way to keep Scranton solvent.
According to the paper, Scranton—which faces a $16.8 million budget deficit—had $133,000 in cash on hand as of Monday, but owed $3.4 million in various vendor bills, including health insurance.
Roger Leonard, a city employee, told NPR he typically gets a $900 check for two weeks of work. On Friday, it was $340.
"I have two children and a wife, and my wife is a stay-at-home mom," Leonard told NPR. "If the savings gets drained, we won't be OK."
The mayor, meanwhile, blamed the City Council for Scranton's financial woes.
"If they'd gone with my budget, we wouldn't be having this discussion," Doherty said. "The taxes would have been raised. The bills all would have been paid because we would have had a dedicated revenue stream."